Barack Obama, a one-time US President, has endorsed Joe R. Biden Jr, his former Vice President, saying the country needed a steady leader to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
In a video released on Tuesday, Obama emerged from political hibernation on Tuesday to endorse Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, urging the Democratic Party — including, explicitly, supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont — to unite behind its presumptive presidential nominee in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is as Senator Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the immediate Democratic presidential aspirants, had also endorsed him.
In a lengthy video announcing his support, Mr. Obama praised Mr. Sanders for setting a new agenda for the party and signaled that more progressive ideas would be reflected in Mr. Biden’s campaign going forward. At the same time, he urged fortitude in the face of the coronavirus, sounding less like a campaign-trail endorser at points than a president addressing a nation in crisis.
His goal could not have been clearer: to energize the many younger and more progressive voters who dislike or distrust Mr. Biden, and bridge the party’s ideological divisions in a way that he may be uniquely positioned to do.
Appealing directly to Mr. Sanders’ supporters, he underscored the pivot Mr. Biden has been trying to make since wrapping up the nomination: from an argument, essentially, for restoring the pre-Trump status quo to an argument that this is insufficient.
It is the argument Mr. Sanders and other progressive candidates — like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, whose call for “big structural change” Mr. Obama overtly echoed — made all along.
“To meet the moment, the Democratic Party will have to be bold,” Mr. Obama said. “I could not be prouder of the incredible progress that we made together during my presidency. But if I were running today, I wouldn’t run the same race or have the same platform as I did in 2008. The world is different. There’s too much-unfinished business for us to just look backward. We have to look to the future.”
Mr. Sanders’ ideas and his supporters’ enthusiasm would be critical in November, Mr. Obama said, before discussing several of the issues that drove Mr. Sanders’s campaign. Americans, he said, needed student debt relief that did “more than just tinker around the edges,” health care access that went beyond the Affordable Care Act, climate policies bolder than the Paris Agreement, and policies to address “the vast inequalities created by the new economy” — inequalities that he acknowledged had been evident long before now.
“Of course Democrats may not always agree on every detail of the best way to bring about each and every one of these changes, but we do agree that they’re needed,” he said. “And that only happens if we win this election.”
At points in his video announcement, which ran more than 12 minutes, Mr. Obama seemed to be doing more than endorsing his former vice president, more even than trying to unite his party. From his first words — “these aren’t normal times” — it was something like an Oval Office address to a battered nation, designed for maximum contrast with the office’s current occupant.
“Michelle and I hope that you and your families are safe and well,” he said. “If you’ve lost somebody to this virus, or if someone in your life is sick, or if you’re one of the millions suffering economic hardship, please know that you’re in our prayers. Please know that you’re not alone. Because now is the time for all of us to help where we can, to be there for each other as neighbors, as co-workers, and as fellow citizens.”
Mr. Obama made the argument explicit, saying that “moments of great crisis” revealed the need for strong leadership.
“The kind of leadership that’s guided by knowledge and experience, honesty and humility, empathy and grace — that kind of leadership doesn’t just belong in our state capitals and mayor’s offices. It belongs in the White House,” he said. “That’s why I’m so proud to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States.”
While the Democratic race was competitive, Mr. Obama remained publicly neutral and offered advice to all commers, even as multiple candidates tried to link themselves to him. But behind the scenes, he has been involved for the first time and played a key role in persuading Mr. Sanders to end his campaign and endorse Mr. Biden.
(The New York Times)